Covering the Year
CIA & DynCorp
NUGGETS FROM THE NUTHOUSE
Terrorist as Militant
Newsweek X Bomb
Seattle to Pittsburgh
SF Labor Dispute
Israeli Youth Refuse
Underserved & Unprotected
Recession in Midwest
Obama & Immigration
HK Women Workers
New Latin America
Zaps - 12-09
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Hong Kong: Women Workers in the Economic Crisis
An interview with Cheung Lai-Ha
Under the heading "Decent Work, Decent Life for Women," the first International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Women's Conference brought together 460 delegates from over 100 countries from October 19 to 21 in Brussels. They examined the repercussions of the global jobs crisis on women and mapped out international trade union actions to improve their job security, pay, and working conditions.
Hong Kong, one of the world's leading financial centers, has been hard hit by the economic crisis, accentuating the inequalities women workers already suffer. Cheung Lai-ha, a delegate to the conference, is the vice president of the Honk Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), president of its Women's Committee, and general secretary of the textile sector union.
GRUMIAU: What impact has the economic crisis had on women workers in Hong Kong?
LAI-HA: Like everywhere, Hong Kong has gone into a recession. Many men have been made redundant and their wives have gone out to look for jobs, if they did not already have one. Government statistics show that increasing numbers of women have entered the labor market over the last six to nine months. And yet their pay has stagnated over the last 10 years or so and for the same work a woman worker employed in the private sector earns between 75 and 80 percent of a man's wage.
WWC opening session — photo by Jacky Delorme
We have also observed that a large number of women are only able to obtain precarious or informal economy work. There are twice as many women in this situation as there were five years ago. As women are more inclined to accept poorly paid or insecure jobs than men, the rate of unemployment is currently higher among men than women. The crisis has also led to a considerable increase in work hours.
While discrimination in the employment of married women was already rampant prior to the crisis, it is even worse now. Employers would rather avoid hiring them as they fear they will become pregnant. Many women workers are fired if they get pregnant. The birth rate is already very low in Hong Kong and this type of discrimination does nothing to help matters.
Does legislation in Hong Kong protect pregnant workers?
Yes, but it is not properly applied because women workers rarely file a complaint (as it is difficult to furnish proof of discrimination) and the sanctions against employers are too trifling.
Why is it so difficult to gather proof of discrimination?
Because this type of discrimination is not overt. The employer puts pressure on the pregnant worker so that she ends up resigning. They make her work in a place without air conditioning, with poor ventilation, overloading her with work, forcing her to carry out useless tasks, installing a camera to keep her under constant surveillance, etc. Eighty percent of women workers that contact our union, after being placed under this type of pressure, are in need of psychological help.
How do you explain the pay gap between men and women doing the same job?
In the textile sector, a male office worker earns 10,000 Hong Kong dollars a month ($1,290 USD) while a female office worker earns between 7,500 and 8,000 ($967 to $1,030 USD). This difference is owed to the mentality of private sector employers, who see women workers as second-class labor. The lower pay is not explicit. On paper, it is the same for an identical job description, but if one calculates all the components of the wage, it will be lower for a woman. This type of difference doesn't exist in the public sector, however.
What action does the HKCTU take against such forms of discrimination?
We help those affected to file a complaint. In 90 percent of the cases over discrimination against pregnant women, we obtain reparations and a ruling against the employer. But too few women dare to complain, as they are more tolerant in the face of discrimination. This is particularly the case for middle-aged women, who know they will have difficulties finding another job.
We place pressure on the government to tackle these issues and raise public awareness about the problems experienced by women workers. Our lobby has, for example, resulted in the government's women's affairs commission pushing harder for the law to be reformed in women's favor.
Combating violence against women is one of the main themes of the ITUC World Women's Conference. What is the situation in Hong Kong?
The Hong Kong government and employers do not consider sexual harassment to be a major problem. It is, however, more of a problem than the statistics would indicate. It is still a taboo subject, even though more and more cases are being reported, thanks to the HKCTU's awareness-raising campaigns. We do not want sexual harassment victims to fear dismissal or some other form of retaliation if they dare to speak out. Our campaigns are targeted at young women workers and the general public, because the victims all too often remain silent for fear of how their friends and families will react.
We are also mobilizing to stop employers from verbally abusing women workers, which is a serious and widespread problem here. When we receive complaints from men who have been seriously insulted by their hierarchal superiors, we defend them too.
We are also dealing with increasing numbers of migrant domestic workers who are beaten and abused by their employers. One of the HKCTU federations is specializing in defending them. It assists the victims with the legal procedures and gives them material support. Without this aid, the employer wouldn't be at any risk as his victim would be forced to return to her country, not having a work permit.
What are the priorities of the HKCTU Women's Committee?
HKCTU-organized MayDay march in 2009
Unfortunately, we have to admit that Hong Kong unions do not consider gender issues a priority. People are not falling over ourselves to be on the women's committee. Our members, male and female, would rather mobilize around other issues linked to the world of work, areas where they have more influence. They would rather not work on gender-related issues as it takes more time to see the results. Our women's committee is also disadvantaged by the fact that its members are less educated and they have less occasion to be exposed to international debates. Our priorities nonetheless continue to be the fight for women workers' rights, for equal pay, the fight against sexual harassment and age discrimination.
In the retail and services sector, for instance, women over 30 cannot find work as they are considered "too old." Another type of discrimination affects people under 22, who generally have a lot of difficulty getting hired. But in this case it is the women that are at an advantage when it comes to recruitment, as employers like to have "young and pretty" women on their staff. Looks are very important in Hong Kong.
You are the general secretary of the HKCTU textile and clothing sector union. Is this still a key sector in Hong Kong?
Over the last 20 years, the number of employees in this sector has gone from 320,000 to 32,000, 80 percent of whom are employed as clerical staff and the rest as "technical" workers (cleaning, replacing "Made in China" labels with "Made in Hong Kong" labels, etc.). With the economic crisis, another 10,000 people out of these 32,000 have been laid off or are under-employed. There used to be a lot of managers from Hong Kong among these 32,000—they used to work in mainland China, but they are now largely being replaced by mainland Chinese managers, whose wages are not as high. Some companies in mainland China continue to prefer managers from Hong Kong, as they have higher ethics, but they are increasingly less well paid.
Those who have lost their jobs in this sector over the last 20 years have tried to find other jobs, but their wages are lower. Their lack of qualifications means they only land jobs as private security guards, domestic workers, etc.
Has Hong Kong's return to China in 1997 led to a deterioration in workers' rights?
As soon as it took office, the new government rushed to abolish the laws regulating collective bargaining, which had only been adopted 50 days before the end of the British era. We are pressing the authorities to legislate again, to no avail thus far. It is also increasingly difficult to obtain an employer's recognition of a union, and there are more restrictions on the holding of demonstrations. For any gathering of over 20 people, the police have to be asked for a document stipulating that it is not opposed to it. Some police officers are reticent to issue these documents, which can mean that the demonstration is rendered illegal.
Samuel Grumiau is a reporter for ICTU and the Trade Union World.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.